Walking Gear and Equipment


Please bring suitable footwear and a change of shoes to wear in the car. A plastic bag to hold your dirty footwear, such as boots and gaiters, would be appreciated. Waterproof clothing a drink and a packed lunch are essential for all day-long walks. What else you bring depends on the time of year and the weather conditions. If you are new to walking in the fells, be prepared for the unexpected. A predicted shower can be a cloud burst. Alternatively the forecast 'cloudy with bright spells' can turn out to be a day of unbroken sunshine, in which case have you got a sun hat or sun tan lotion and very importantly, have you brought enough to drink? Remember, you require approximately three times more liquid on a hot day, when you sweat a lot, than on a day when you can see the vapour in your breath condense in the cold air.

The following list is only a guide. You will probably never acquire or need all the items. If you are new to walking, you don't need a lot to get started, especially if you start with a rambling group. A basic minimum is given in the first table. If you find you like fell walking, then is the time to consider whether to upgrade and/or whether to get extra items. We expect that many people considering fell-walking will not be completely new to walking per se and will be equipped with most of the basic kit needed already.

Note: if you intend walking in the fells on your own, please refer to the complete guide and consider seriously getting any extra kit that will improve your safety.

Basic gear you ought to have when fell walking

The least you need in Summer, when in a group:

  1. A good pair of well fitting waterproof boots, with a tough moulded well shaped tread, giving adhesion both up and down slopes. (Some boots have tread angled to give good grip in one direction but not the other!) It is usual to get a size at least a half size more than your shoe size. If you can feel the end of your toes touching the toe-end of a boot, it is too small. Good sideways ankle support is recommended for walking on uneven ground. Trainers and walking sandals are not recommended in rough country because they give limited support and little protection from sharp rocks and spiky undergrowth. (Don't forget a waterproofing treatment for your boots. You don't have to carry it, only use it!)

  2. Walking socks. You can get these with a smooth inner lining with extra padding around toes and heels, which cushion the feet on impact, so there is no need to wear two pairs. However, after a walk, consider changing into shoes and a fresh thinner pair of socks.

  3. Ideally, a 'breathable' water-resistant jacket, with hood, that lets sweat out and stops rain getting in. A showerproof one is not sufficient. The jacket should be large enough to wear over a fleece if necessary and not so short that, even with it on, your bottom gets wet if it rains! Velcro fastening on sleeves is recommended while pockets should be free from rain intrusion. A wide pocket on the chest, not crossed by rucksack waist straps, to carry items needing easy access such as maps, GPS, compass, possible medication, etc. would be useful. If you are new to walking, you could make do with a cheap waterproof jacket, before considering investing in one of good quality.

  4. Modern synthetic walking trousers are recommended in the fells, being lightweight, comfortable and quick drying, with handy pockets. Check if there is a pocket deep enough to hold an OS map. Versions with detachable bottoms are useful if the temperature rises significantly during the walk but you should be away from brambles, nettles and ticks, when you wear them as shorts.. Their pocket size is inevitably more limited. Denim jeans are not recommended, as they restrict movement, becoming uncomfortable after a time, don't dry quickly and don't protect you from cold winds, especially when they get wet.

  5. You need a reasonably sized rucksack, capable of holding a change of clothing, as well as drinks, food, maps etc. A size of about 30 litres will do, if you are small. The larger you are, the larger the items of clothing, food and drink you will have to take and so the larger the rucksack. Separate side pockets and a top pocket are useful to get to smaller items quickly. Wide shoulder and waist straps with quick-release buckles help towards comfort and speed of access. Sizes range from 20 litres to 75 litres, the latter more likely to be used for serious backpacking with camping equipment. Look out for extra features such as walking pole/ice-axe loops, ventilation features to avoid a sweaty back and concealed security pockets.

  6. Take either a pullover or fleece. (It can be cold if you are caught on the fells on a clear night even in summer.)


Extra items to have all year round:

  1. A compass. A must-have for the fell walker. It is advisable to get one with 2 sets of (Romar) map measuring scales, 1 :25k and 1 : 50k. Google 'Map, compass and GPS', if you feel you need to revise how to use a compass or GPS.

  2. A waterproof rucksack-cover or a dry bag liner. (Putting spare clothing in plastic bags inside the rucksack is a cheap alternative option.) The liner doesn't make a noise in the wind and doesn't get blown off the rucksack like a simple outer cover can. If you use an outer cover, get one, which can be secured by a strap to the rucksack, so that in a big gust of wind, it won't be blown away. With no covers going flying, nobody will risk an accident giving chase and you won't lose it.

  3. A first-aid kit. Ideally it should contain some bandages, including a triangular one (to support broken bones, dislocations and sprains), medium sterile dressing, a fine tipped pair of tweezers (for removal of splinters, thorns, ticks etc.), sticking-plasters, blister plasters, antiseptic ointment and safety pins (to secure dressings) together with at least 2 vinyl or latex gloves for your own protection. You could include headache and/or indigestion tablets for your own use.

  4. A light (stainless steel) Thermos flask for hot (or cold) drinks and/or soup. (Sizes 500ml,750ml and 1litre are available.) As much as 1500ml of drinks should be considered when climbing in hot weather. Plastic bottles can be used for water or squash drinks. They don't keep the liquid cool but they are light.

  5. Plastic box(es) or bags for sandwiches, biscuits, cake, fruit, tea bags etc.

  6. A mat to sit on. One about 1 cm thick (for insulation) in a bright colour such as red (so that they are less likely to be left behind) is an option. Folding ones are available.

  7. Maps of the area, plus the knowledge to read them! After one soaking, a paper map will soon disintegrate, so consider getting plastic coated ones.

  8. A sunhat and sun block in sunny weather, especially if you are fair skinned or are 'follicularly challenged'. Even in a cool wind or on a cold day, you can burn badly if you are in the sun for a few hours. A Tilley hat, which is a heavy duty sun hat with a wide brim, a high crown with ventilation holes, is comfortable in hot sunny weather, especially if it is windy, because of strings under the chin and the nape of the neck. The down side is its expense.

  9. A warm cap with peak, ear flaps and a draw string under the chin, to hold it on in windy conditions.

  10. Handkerchiefs. (The nose always seems to run.)

  11. Waterproof over-trousers, preferably with long side zips in the legs. If you are wearing shorts, the over trousers can be protection against the cold if you are out on a clear night. If you are wearing trousers they can save these getting wet, though in hot weather many walkers find that they get just as wet from their own sweat, especially if generating their own heat while climbing.

  12. A spare large plastic bag, which can be placed over each boot enabling waterproof trousers to be donned quickly and cleanly if necessary.

Extra items to have in cold weather:

  1. Extra pullovers/fleeces to wear. (You should keep a spare in your rucksack to put on if it gets really cold.) If you get too hot, remember it is more practical to shed a layer if you have a few thin layers rather than one thick one.

  2. Gloves or mitts (preferably water resistant and breathable). Mitts are easier to take off and put back on if your hands get sweaty.

  3. Long thermal underwear.

  4. Extra/thicker socks .


Optional Items

Some do without, some don't!:

  1. A pair of gaiters to help keep the bottom of one's trousers clean, hence reducing the number of times one's trousers need washing.

  2. Walking pole or poles - useful for traversing slippy or boggy ground, assessing the depth of puddles and becks and going down steep slopes. They can be a hindrance when climbing rock faces or styles - a reason for only taking one but for those with knee or ankle joint problems they are a boon. Consider carrying them fixed to your rucksack and using them only when really needed.

  3. A scarf.

  4. Sun glasses. useful in brightly lit snow as well as low or strong sunlight.

  5. Water purification tablets. Hopefully you always take enough liquid to drink but if you do need more, when in the fells, bear in mind that the water in the spring, beck or gill may look clear but there could be a dead sheep upstream!

  6. A platypus or 'camel' - a plastic holder for cold drinks, which goes in your rucksack. A plastic tube enters the holder and is used to suck out liquid, while on the move. This is especially useful in hot weather between drink stops! Choose a version, where the tube enters the top of the holder, otherwise a leaky bottom entry version can soak your rucksack and its contents. (It may not be too difficult to adapt a bottom entry version to become a top entry one. It does involve cutting the tube into two lengths. The holder now has its entry point at the top and one length is pushed inside the holder to reach its bottom. Check that a water tight connection with the remaining tube is feasible before making the cut!) Platypuses are known, more appropiately, by the proprietary name 'CamelBaks' in North America.

  7. Global Positioning System, (GPS). Considered a toy by some but can be very useful in locating one's position, especially in fog or mist or woods, if you can find a clearing. Using them to follow pre-programmed routes taken from electronic maps can ease navigation in new territory.

  8. A few spare plastic carrier bags, (As already mentioned, they can be useful to keep clothing dry in the rucksack and to put over boots when putting on water-proof trousers).


Safety items, useful in an emergency, especially when venturing in remote areas:

  1. A whistle to attract attention of rescuers, if you are badly injured. (Give 6 short blasts to attract attention. Return 6 long blasts in reply.)

  2. A torch - for signalling and finding one's way in the dark.

  3. Extra clothing and food.

  4. A heat-reflecting foil blanket. These are very light to carry.

  5. A survival bag, (also known as a bivvy bag or bivvy sack), which is brightly coloured (e.g. orange) and so hopefully highly visible These are made from a thermal reflective and windproof fabric, often of several layers, and could be a life-saver in very cold conditions.

  6. A mobile phone (?) should not be relied on to operate in the fells. There are many areas with little or no signal, so don't go to places, which are beyond your level of competence, thinking that, if you get into difficulties, mountain rescue is on hand to help you out, Even if you get a signal, the voluntary rescue teams are over-stretched and may be busy elsewhere. (A tragic statistic is that the number of deaths in the Lake District has more than doubled from 14 in 2002 to 31 in 2008. Most of these were of people, who lacked experience walking in the fells.)


For snow and ice

  1. A sturdier pair of boots with soles stiff enough to kick steps in firm snow and provide extra insulation from the cold. (Double and even triple skin boots, for high altitudes are available.) They should be capable of taking crampons. Matching boots to crampons is easier if both are bought at the same time. Many boots have a rating from B0 (a low stiffness) to B3, while crampons are rated C1 to C3, which helps the matching process. However if their is any flex in the sole of the boot the positions of articulation of boot and its crampon should be the same.

  2. Modern crampons are easy to put on and adjust. If you have already purchased your boots, then take them along when buying your crampons, so that you can be sure they are compatible and fit well. Bear in mind that not all boots are suitable. (See 'A sturdier pair of boots' above, for information on the rating of crampons.) Versions of crampons available include: instep crampons, which are fairly light and useful on low level paths in winter, flexible crampons for ice covered hills, giving more grip than instep crampons, articulated crampons, which are of a heavier build than flexible crampons coming in many innovative designs and step-in crampons, which have ski type bindings but require very stiff boots.

  3. An ice axe, if you intend climbing in snow and ice. Take advice on the size you need and learn how to use it, e.g. how to stop yourself when in a slide, known as an ice-axe arrest. A single lightweight axe with a mildly curved pick is perfect for less steep routes with a low level of difficulty. On steeper climbs, a reverse pick with integral adze, useful for step cutting, is recommended and on really difficult routes two shorter axes with reverse picks, one with an adze and one with a hammer (for knocking in pegs and ice screws) should be considered. Because technical axes are expensive see if you can borrow different axes from other mountaineers and try them out to assess the weight and model you prefer before making a purchase.

  4. A wrist leash is recommended to tie your axe to your person. It could be disastrous if the axe was lost. An alternative to a leash is a cord, attaching your axe to your climbing harness, which allows the axe to be swopped from hand to hand when zig-zagging.

  5. Walking pole/s even if you don't normally use them, especially if you have no crampons.

  6. A balaclava to keep your face warm. Ignore the fact that you look like a bank robber!

  7. Goggles - very useful in a blizzard.

  8. A waterproof, breathable jacket, with greater insulation in body and hood. (This would be too hot for normal wear.)

  9. A bothy bag or kisu shelter, which is like a tent made with waterproof lightwight nylon but without the poles. A drawcord fits around the base, which is drawn up around two or more people, who sit inside. Because the occupants share body heat, it can be a life saver. It is available in a range of sizes.


Introduce other hobbies to bring added pleasure:

  1. A camera. A small digital camera of at least 5 Mega pixels won't be too heavy to carry and usually can be hung handily on one's belt. It should be capable of taking a large number of pictures of reasonable quality, especially if you have installed a card with a large memory. If you fill this card, a spare can avoid disappointment. Also consider taking a spare charged battery.

  2. A pair of binoculars (or a monocular, which should be less than half the weight of a pair of binoculars with the same specification of lens.)

  3. For the lone fell-walker, drawing or painting materials but probably no oils for obvious reasons.

  4. A swimming costume and towel, if you fancy a swim. Note, however, that you are not allowed to swim in lakes such as Thirlmere and Haweswater together with their tributaries, because they are used for drinking water.

If you take all these items, you may need a bigger rucksack! If you are walking on your own, check the weather forecast before starting out and inform a responsible person of where you intend to go. If the weather conditions are likely to be bad, then take an experienced companion or wait for better weather. The main thing is to ENJOY YOURSELF!